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How to get on the Internet

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the July 2000 issue of Transmission Digest.

Getting on the Internet was easy for me. I was sitting at the dinner table one night and said " I think I will check in to what I have to do to get connected to the Internet tomorrow." My teenage daughter looked at me like I was a mutant that had just arrived on earth in some time capsule from the past and said, " Dad, we have been connected to the Internet for six months." So, the moral of the story: Before you spend any time or money regarding the Internet, ask the resident teenager first. For those of you not "lucky" enough to have a resident teenager, let me try to make some sense of it for you.

Getting connected to the Internet is confusing and time consuming if you are starting from scratch with no back ground in computers. I will try to simplify the process in this article by talking about the basics. There are several ways to get connected to the Internet, but let's cover the most common way. You will need connection hardware, a telephone line and Internet service provider.

1. Connection Hardware.
A computer system ( monitor, CPU, keyboard and mouse)with what they call a "modem" is the most common connection hardware. A modem converts information from Analog to Digital & vice versa. For our purposes here, the modem is a hardware device that helps connect your computer to the Internet. Without it you have a computer that won't connect you to the Internet. Most of the later model computers come with a modem. However, you do not need a new computer to get on-line. You can add a modem to an old computer that doesn't have one. I once bought a used 4 year old computer, added a 56K modem and it worked just fine. I spent less than $200.00 for the whole system including the modem. The 56k modem is the most common modem now. Any thing below that, such as the 28.8 or the 36.6K modem, slows down the processing time considerably.

2.Telephone line.
To make a very long story short, the Internet operates through existing telephone lines. That's all you need to know right now about that. You must have a telephone line to plug your computer into in order to get on the Internet.

3.ISP (Internet Service Provider).
The Internet Service Provider or sometimes referred to as Internet Access Provider (IAP) is a company which provides access to the Internet and e-mail service for people like you & me. AOL is the most easily recognized example of an Internet service provider. You see their commercials on TV all the time. The ISP's central computer is linked to the rest of the Internet. The ISP company takes the link from your Personal Computer and links it to the rest of the Internet. The ISP gives you their phone number your computer dials every time you access the Internet through their service. You will also be given a secret username and password when you sign up with them. Your username and password is put into an access file that the ISP checks when you try to access the Internet through their company. Once you have your computer with a modem plugged into the phone line and you are set up with them, you type in your username and password and click on connect. Their access phone number is automatically dialed, the call is answered by the ISP, your username and password are verified and then their central computer connects you to the Internet. That's all there is to it. There are thousands of Internet service providers to choose from. Just pick one. Don't try to figure out which one is best for you in the beginning. You can change to another ISP later if you want to. Just don't get locked in to a long term obligation. For those of you in remote areas, make sure the number you use to dial in is not a long distance call. You can look in the yellow pages and find an ISP. Call them and they will provide you with the information you need to get started. Also, most telephone companies are Internet service providers. That is probably the easiest way to go. The ISP you choose will supply you with the software and the technical telephone support you will need to get connected.

You should also be aware that there are several companies offering alternative ways to access the Internet. If all you want to do is e-mail and access the Internet, but don't want the hassle of a full-blown PC, get a WebTV. WebTV Plus delivers the best mix of Internet access and enhanced television functionality. It's pretty easy to use and can be purchased at common retail outlets like K mart and Wall Mart. Other connection alternatives are being developed all the time. For example, a cell phone may now be used and I understand they are working on a watch that will access the Internet. You can check out the retail computer stores for these products. Regardless of how you choose to get connected to the Internet, get connected. It is well worth the time and effort.

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